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Startup visa brought almost 1,000 employees to Estonia in 2019

Startup Week Tallinn festival 2019.
Startup Week Tallinn festival 2019. Source: ERR

In total 928 startup employees and 219 founders came to Estonia under the startup visa in 2019, and since the scheme began more than 2,000 have come to work in Estonia with the visa.

Startups using the startup visa paid the state €1.6 million in labor taxes last year and increased their revenue to €17.5 million, which is 152 percent more than the year before.

Altogether 207 startups, or one-fifth of all Estonian startups, have hired employees to Estonia with the help of the startup visa.

The average gross monthly salary of employees who started work at a startup under the startup visa was €1,951 in 2019, significantly exceeding the average salary in Estonia, which was €1,407 in 2019.

Most of the employees who came to Estonia under the startup visa were from Russia, India and Brazil, 149, 124 and 111 people, respectively.

Maarika Truu, head of Startup Estonia, said: "The role of foreigners in the success of our local businesses cannot be ignored or underestimated today. One-fifth of Estonia's startup employees are foreigners and are highly sought after and often highly specialized professionals who contribute to the growth of our local startups. Therefore, it is very important that Estonia is an open and attractive country for talent and that our local companies are not forced to leave because they cannot find the employees they need here."

In 2019, the founders who came to Estonia under the startup visa established 40 new startups, while foreigners currently make up 30 percent of the founders of Estonian startups. Most startup founders who came to Estonia last year were from Iran, Russia and India, 61, 48 and 40 people, respectively.

Merilin Lukk, project manager for the startup visa program, said that since the program's inception in January 2017, a total of 2,150 people have started work in Estonia, 572 of them founders of startups, who have established 207 companies in Estonia through the program.

Sergei Anikin, chief technology officer (CTO) of Pipedrive, emphasized that the startup visa is one of the most important steps that the state of Estonia has taken to support and promote the IT sector. "Global recruitment is the only opportunity for local technology companies to grow. There is work to be done, but there is a shortage of specialists with specific skills, such as software engineers, in Estonia," Anikin said.

Since the beginning of the startup visa program, Pipedrive has hired 64 high-salaried IT specialists, and last year, the company hired 52 top specialists from 25 countries to work in Estonia under the startup visa.

Truu said that the current bottleneck in Estonia is the lack of adaptation programs for foreigners. "There is a lack of support networks, foreign-language family doctor services and schools, but fortunately, these issues are being taken seriously into consideration today both at national and municipal level," she added.

Launched in January 2017, the startup visa program enables citizens of non-EU countries to work for Estonian startups, move existing startups here or start new ones in Estonia. In order to benefit from the visa, a company wishing to do so must obtain an evaluation by a startup committee, convened by the Ministry of the Interior, as to whether the company meets the definition of a startup company as highlighted by law.

The Startup Estonia program is being implemented by KredEx with the aim of creating more success story startups in Estonia by developing their ecosystem. Startup Estonia is involved in several development programs. Through them, the knowledge and skills of startup entrepreneurs are developed, the financing of startups is improved and legal bottlenecks are eliminated. The Startup Estonia program is funded from assets of the European Regional Development Fund.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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